What is water weight gain?


  • Water weight gain refers to temporary weight gain or loss attributed to fluctuations in the body’s water content rather than fat or muscle mass changes.
Water weight
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  • Normal fluctuations in hydration status can cause water retention and daily weight fluctuations of 1-3 lbs. Certain factors like diet, hormones, medications, and exercise can amplify these shifts.
  • For example, higher carb or sodium intake causes the body to hold extra water. Monthly hormonal changes also influence water retention in women.
  • Losing “water weight” occurs when the body excretes excess fluid, causing rapid weight loss that is not indicative of fat loss.


  • Gaining several pounds after a high-sodium meal that flush out over the next days
  • Losing weight rapidly when starting a low-carb diet due to glycogen depletion

Related Terms

  • Bloating – A swollen, gassy feeling in the abdomen caused by intestinal gas or fluid retention. Common causes include constipation, food sensitivities, and hormonal changes.
  • Glycogen – The main carbohydrate storage in the body. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles and broken down for energy between meals.
  • Sodium – An essential mineral and electrolyte. Sodium helps regulate fluid balance and is important for muscle and nerve function. Excess sodium can cause fluid retention.
  • Hormones – Chemical messengers in the body that regulate functions like growth, metabolism, and reproduction. Hormonal changes can lead to symptoms like bloating.
  • Diuretics Diuretics – Substances that increase urine output, leading to lower sodium and water levels in the body. Some foods and beverages like coffee have mild diuretic effects.

Common Questions

  • What causes water weight gains? Hormonal changes, high sodium/carb intake, lack of exercise, and medications can cause temporary water retention and bloating.
  • Why does my weight fluctuate daily? Daily weight fluctuations are mostly due to water retention and intestinal contents. Glycogen storage, hormones, sodium intake, and exercise can impact water balance.
  • Is losing water weight healthy? Losing a few pounds of water weight from reducing bloating can be healthy. But aggressive short-term efforts to lose water weight like fasting, fluid restriction, or diuretics are often counterproductive. Sustainable nutrition and exercise give longer-lasting weight loss.

Do Not Confuse Water Weight With

  • Fat loss – Fat loss refers to losing body fat over time through being in a calorie deficit. A sustainable approach is to aim for a modest calorie deficit through nutrition and exercise. This allows fat to be used for energy without sacrificing muscle. A 1-2 pound per week fat loss rate is recommended. Losing fat too quickly can cause muscle loss.
  • Muscle loss – Muscle loss occurs when muscle tissue breaks down faster than it can be rebuilt. Causes include injury, illness, aging, inactivity, and malnutrition. Not eating enough protein or calories can lead to muscle breakdown.
  • Strength training helps build and preserve muscle, while cardio training uses fat for energy. Avoiding long periods of inactivity and eating sufficient protein can help minimize muscle loss.
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